On May 21, Peekskill voters will vote on a $78.4 million budget proposal and elect three new school board members. Below is a brief bio of Jillian Clausen and her replies to a set of questions sent to all of the candidates. Clausen is a lifelong resident of Peekskill who graduated from the high school in 2008. She graduated from Guilford College in Greensboro North Carolina with a B.S. in Business Administration and Psychology with a minor in Human Resource Management. After college she learned about Educational Advocacy and has been advocating for students. She is a member of the Religious Society of Friends also known as the Quakers and holds their values of peace, equality, community, stewardship, integrity, and simplicity paramount. She has helped in many areas throughout her life in Peekskill, everything from Interact club in High School to helping at the Festa Italiana, and most recently with my advocacy work. She is engaged to her highschool sweetheart and wants to help keep Peekskill a place to raise children.
Patch: What strengths will you bring to the board? I believe that I bring a young spirit to the board with the energy and enthusiasm that comes with it. I want to look to creativity to solve problems and am willing and able to put the time and energy needed to get things done. I also bring my connection to this community as it has been my home my whole life and has given me so much, as well as my experience in education and psychology.
Patch: What issues facing the district do you feel most strongly about?I think our district is truly struggling to keep up with the needs of all the children. We are facing interesting issues nationally when it comes to psychology and special needs; with instances of diagnosis growing alongside the understanding of disorders keeping education up is difficult. We have to be able to give these children as much a chance at success in the world as all our neuro-typical children. I also feel that we are struggling to provide an educational environment that engages and supports all its students. We lack a system for gifted children; we lack outlets for encouragement and positive reinforcement to foster positive behavior and achievement. We are currently involved in a number of controversies that are doing nothing but hurting our students and the district as a whole.
Patch: Describe the quality of education you think students are getting in the district. Are there measures you would take to improve upon it?I went through this school system; I enjoyed it, but there are a few areas that are and have been lacking. There are very few outlets for gifted students and over achievers. Gifted students should be challenged from within and not have to seek out advancement. We have very limited support services and while I know they can be quite costly, many people in these positions change lives.
Patch: This was another tough year for the district in terms of developing a budget. Are there any areas you would consider cutting during next year's budget process to stay under the tax cap? I have always believed that all change has to stem from the top. If we need to look at making any cuts they need to come from administration before coming from classrooms. However, it is more important to look to build revenue then to make cuts. We have a talented group of students and a great amount of diverse space that could be used in any number of creative new ways that generate new funds. We have to remember that in many cases it takes money to make money and while education should not be a market and a student should never have a price tag we live in the US and that is exactly what education is here.
Patch: What do you think the long-term impact of the tax cap will be on Peekskill schools? (Do you support or think it's hurting public education?) I think that education is the most important gift any community can give. It is important that every dollar that a community gives in taxes or as a donation is used to the fullest. The trying economic times have hit us and the tax cap helps make it clear to those in education that there isn’t an open piggy bank anywhere, but I think it should encourage districts to look to other funding sources. While it would be easier if it wasn’t there we must not look at it as a barrier but a mere obstacle to overcome.
Patch: What do you think about the Common Core standards? Will they benefit Peekskill students? There are pros and cons to the common core as there are with most other things. I think that only time will truly tell if the scales balance, but with the common core coming into place in Peekskill as well as countless other schools across the country it is important to support teachers in the implementation and understanding. I think that having comparable standards is important but I can’t help but question the push for anything that leads to teaching to a test instead of a method more suited to teach the skills needed to succeed in our world.
Patch: There are plans for the establishment of a charter school in the Peekskill school district? What are your thoughts on the charter school and the impact it will have on the district? As I have not been made completely savvy of all details I have yet to form an opinion. I would like to hear the presentations on both sides as well as hear from the state and other places with charter schools before making up my mind. However, with the state denying the application I think all the energy that was being used for or against the charter school needs to be used to improve the quality of our public schools.
Patch: Is there anything we haven’t asked that you would like the public to know about you or your candidacy? I think the only thing that I would really like to say is that I don’t know everything; I won’t promise that I can magically fix any problems or that my ideas will work, but I can guarantee that I will listen to the public, the teachers, and students and I will do everything I can and will try my best.